The Chinese Latrine: a Pigstory

Humans and pigs are the only two large mammals from the original heartland of Chinese civilisation in the Yellow River Valley that survive today. A constant companion ever since humans started domesticating wild pigs over 8000 years ago, no other creature has occupied such a trusted and focal place in Chinese communities throughout history. Today China remains home to over half of the world’s 1.3 billion pig population. While researching a piece on the privy and attitudes towards excretion and excrement in early China, pigs emerged as frequent visitors in the sources. In this talk Professor Sterckx explores how, when and why, and hopes to persuade us that studying matter out of place in the Chinese classical canon may matter after all.

Roel Sterckx is Joseph Needham Professor of Chinese History, Science and Civilisation at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Clare College.